My Fairytale Life

October 20, 2010

“Every man’s life is a fairy-tale written by God’s fingers.”-Hans Christian Anderson. My life, however, does not mimic any fairytale that I know. I never have pricked my finger on a spindle. I have never lived with seven dwarves. I did, on the other hand, live with a brother who, as a college football player, ate and made enough mess to add up to seven dwarves. I do believe though that God has written a grand fairy-tale in my life: full of normalcy, then a downward spiral into the belly of the beast, support from a fairy godmother (or a whole team of them), and a fairy tale-like happy ending.
As an adolescent, my life was as normal as the next teen’s life. My middle class suburban family life would be described as idyllic. I grew up in a family of four; I didn’t come from a broken home. We went to church every Sunday. I participated in little league sports and district musicals and watched my brother play high school and college football. I was a successful student throughout my educational career, never getting less than a B on a report card. I excelled in performing on the flute. College beckoned. Life was unfolding nicely. That is, until September 29, 2008. On that day, the axis of my world shifted 180 degrees. The week prior to this, I began to feel odd. Bumps emerged on the back of my neck. I fell prey to fevers and nose bleeds. On September 29, 2008, a visit to the doctor changed my world.
I remember vividly that too cold, too rainy day. The emergency room contained at least 20
waiting patients, but we immediately were ushered through the throng of sniffling noses, queasy
stomachs and damaged ankles. In the exam room, my best friend’s mother, an MD, told me the
bad news. The diagnosis revealed either Lymphoma or Leukemia, and further testing had to be
done. Within four hours, my parents and I arrived at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The downward
spiral from my idyllic life had begun.
Over the next few days, we endured piles of paperwork, and many phone calls, body fluid tests, IV blood draws, and bone marrow pokes. I have never prayed harder than what I did that week.
I was diagnosed with AML, or Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. The news came, as it would to anyone, as a huge blow. I burst into tears. Really? How could I get cancer? There was too much to accomplish with college visits and recitals, homework and church activities.
Upon formal diagnosis, the medical staff immediately started chemotherapy. Just as immediately, my blood was free of cancerous cells. The next several months brought on seemingly unending rounds of chemotherapy to fight through. Anger towards God rattled through me during that dark time. What had I done to deserve getting cancer? Surely there was someone more deserving than me. Miraculously my health looked up. I knew God had answered our prayers and that we were on a straight course to the finish line called the fairy tale happy ending.
I became strong enough to leave the hospital for a few days between treatments. One furlough from AML Jail came just before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, things, once again, turned for the worst. That day, I felt a little odd so I skipped dinner to sleep. I woke up Christmas morning unable to get out of bed. I barely had enough strength to lift my head. I would have done anything not to go back to the hospital though so I desperately tried to show no pain. My parents, emotionally drained from seeing me so unwell, took me back to Seattle Children’s. Within an hour of admission, I went in to Septic Shock. Severely dehydrated, the ER doctors vacuum pumped five liters of fluid into me.
I spent nearly three weeks in the PICU (Pediatric Initial Care Unit), puffy with fluid retention, in an induced coma. This was the belly-of-the-beast in my fairy tale life. Hooked to a ventilator, kidney dialysis machine, IV monitors on my soaring temperature, dropping blood pressure, and fluttering heart rate, I fought to survive. The only thing I remember from that time is a dream conversation with a friend of mine who died a few years ago in a car crash. She told me to say hello to her mom for her when I got back. When I got over the short-term memory loss following those weeks to Neverland, my parents reminded me of one night in the ICU. They said I had hallucinated, asking where Mikayla’s mother was. I had told them I needed to tell her something. I believe that this was God’s way of sending me a sign that this world wasn’t done with me yet. The next few days showed signs of improvement. I began to pull through. I owe those doctors and nurses (team fairy godmother) my life many times over.
That number equals the amount of doctors each day that made the decisions that helped me to arrive at where I am today. I finished my last round of chemotherapy and left the hospital for good on March 20, 2009. Without the fairy tale-like healing powers of the Seattle Children’s medical staff, I would be dead.
I feel that this whole cancer ordeal has made me a much stronger and mature person. My life perspective has changed dramatically since my diagnosis date, exactly four hundred and twenty-eight days ago. I now know not to take anything for granted: the smells, the people, and the atmosphere. My life remains strong, and I know I have reached my happily-ever-after. I love my one-of-a-kind fairy tale life, as it has molded me into the person I am today.
Sarah Kintner